Complementarians prohibit women from eldership citing 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:5-9, which refer to the need for elders to be the “husband of one wife”. However, they fail to see the flaw in this logic because, by doing this, they would have to prohibit single men and widowers too, for these are not “husband of one wife” either.

Clearly, the stipulation of “husband of one wife” was concerning the typical candidate of Paul’s day – an experienced married man. In his instructions to Timothy and Titus, Paul focusses in on the typical. As such, he was not giving a blueprint that would reject single men and women. No doubt, women would have been unusual candidates in that period of history and especially in a religion born from Judaism, but not for the Spirit and the future that He had in mind as illustrated in His word. The stipulation of “husband of one wife” has its focus on the necessity for monogamy if married and not on gender or marriage status, i.e. being single or married.

Gender neutrality is evident in 1 Tim 3:1, indicating that from the outset God is open to both male and female elders. 1Tim 3:1 reads, “This is a true saying, If a man (Gk. tis – anyone) desire the office of a bishop, he (not in Gk.) desireth a good work.

When describing the requirements for elders (and deacons), Paul focusses on the typical candidate of his time, a spiritually sound and experienced married man. As such, he does not mention women, single men and widowers, but he is in no way excluding them. He then returns to gender neutrality in 1 Tim 3:5

Gender neutral:

1Tim 3:1, This is a true saying, If a man (Gk. tis – anyone) desire the office of a bishop, he (not in Gk.) desireth a good work.

Focus on a typical married male candidate:

1Tim 3:2-4 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity

Gender neutral:

1Tim 3:5 For if a man (Gk. Tis –anyone) know not how to rule his (not in Gk.) own house, how shall he (not in Gk.) take care of the church of God?

As I see it, The Holy Spirit’s choice of the gender-neutral word “tis” in 1 Tim 3:1 and 3:5, indicates His intention for the meaning to include both males and females. Also, the obvious calling of single men as elders clearly shows that these texts were not as prohibiting as they may first appear.

(I would like to add that even if only males were meant in these texts, this still does not imply that they prohibit females. I will explore this idea in part two.)

Remember, that in Christ we are restored to the equality at creation (Gen 1:28), male rule since the fall (Gen 3:16) is ended, and there is “neither male nor female”, we are all “Sons of God” and we regard “no man according to the flesh”. What reason then would God have to be gender exclusive when it comes to the role of eldership? None!

Rob Morley